I have both a desire for a safe America and a deep commitment to continued immigration and granting of visas for those who want to work hard. As a business owner, my need for a steady stream of immigrants, particularly from Mexico, is mostly for one very practical reason: we can find very few current American citizens willing to consistently put in the long hours and hard work necessary in my landscaping industry. Even paying well above minimum wage for all of our lowest skilled work, we cannot recruit a consistent workforce and this is very bad for our industry.
Americans have come to expect reasonable prices and high quality service in yard care and maintenance. To achieve this, we need highly motivated people interested not only in making money, but in establishing a new life and a new dream. We find that the guys who we hire from the H2B visa program are highly motivated and are excellent workers - for them, it is about creating a new life or sending support back to family members in great need. They are on their best behavior because the stakes are so high. They see their work as a career rather than just a job. And, even under current rules, we cannot get nearly as many of these visas that we need to fill our lowest skilled, but terribly critical, roles in the landscape industry.
Our current economy and the interests of eligible workers have shifted to high level knowledge careers such as financial analysts, computer programmers, medical assistants, graphic design, etc. Gone are the days of having our mowers pushed by teenagers and college kids doing summer jobs. Things have shifted and they are doing internships in the knowledge industry as a way to get their feet in the door for a future career.
As a result of this dynamic, our turnover rate is expensively high - not only from a financial perspective but from a company culture perspective. We are constantly having to train and acclimate new people and that has real costs in lost work hours. It also means that building a sense of team and instilling our values in the workforce is constantly a challenge because the cultures changes as each person leaves and new person comes in. Adding to the company culture challenge, we sometimes even have to accept a certain arrogance and lack of consistency from current American citizens who we can manage to find to fill these positions because they know that we need them so badly.
This is not about a scheme for paying people less - as I mentioned, we pay above minimum wage for all of our low-skilled workers - both Americans and visa holders. This is purely about building a business by establishing a sounds human resource strategy focused on effective recruitment and retention.
I am just as concerned about the safety and security of our country and want us to maintain and even improve vetting processes for visas and immigration. I am not proposing that we lighten up on security and screening. I am saying that we could build our landscaping businesses more effectively and with even better service if we actually increased the number of immigrants / visas, particularly from Mexico. Americans don’t want the jobs and they do — and they bring that attitude and motivation with them to your lawns and homes. Building our industry’s businesses more effectively, with less overhead, and with more consistent company cultures would help to contribute to the overall growth of the American economy.